The South Dakota Legislature has opted to ban abortion in all circumstances except to save the life of the pregnant woman. Not to preserve the woman’s health. Not to end a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.
Let me tell you what the South Dakota abortion ban would mean to me if I lived in South Dakota and got pregnant.
If I were to become pregnant, it would probably not be life-threatening to me—if I received plenty of medical attention from a perinatologist (weekly appointments sufficed during my first pregnancy, but I might need more intensive monitoring for a subsequent pregnancy), if I followed my doctor’s instructions to the letter, if I took assorted prescription medications, and if I called my doctor promptly if anything seemed amiss. Sure, I’d probably end up in the hospital a few times, the baby would be born very prematurely, and my health would suffer greatly (I’m talking about organ failure here) over the long term, but I probably wouldn’t die so long as I was a model patient and my doctor was a model physician. Sure, my lifespan might well be shortened as a result of the pregnancy-related complications, but I probably wouldn’t die within nine months of conception. Under South Dakota law, termination would not be an option for me, despite the clear and present danger to my health.
You might say, “Well, if your health concerns you that much, then you just have to make sure you never get pregnant.” I do have an IUD, but those aren’t absolutely 100% effective (very close, though). “So why doesn’t your husband get a vasectomy?” Well, that posits that he’s the only man with sperm. If he got a vasectomy, that would do nothing to prevent a rapist from attacking me. “Why don’t you get your tubes tied, then?” From my perspective, my body has enough problems already; I hesitate to assume the medical risks associated with a completely elective surgical procedure. I hope never to become pregnant again, although I wouldn’t mind having another child—but if I did get pregnant, I’d seek an abortion.
I know most of my readers are pro-choice, but there may be a few of you who don’t object to South Dakota’s abortion ban and its lack of an exception for preserving the woman’s health. Such a law sends the message that my life isn’t worth it, that my life and health don’t matter, that an embryo has more right to a full lifespan than I do. I beg to differ. If you don’t support a woman’s right to choose abortion, if you think preserving a woman’s health isn’t a good enough reason for abortion—tell me why you'd want me to die early.
[Note: I also strongly support the right to abortion in cases where the woman’s health is not at stake—I deplore all aspects of the South Dakota statute. Other circumstances are beyond the scope of this short personal essay, however.]